And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


The Avengers (2012)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It’s been a long, strange trip, reviewing all these Captain America films. So, with a heavy heart, I laid my seven bucks down and sat through the sixth one I’ve seen this year: Captain America: The First Avenger. How was it? Ask the hideous talking head below what he thought.



Captain America (1990)
Hey, at least they ditched those damn motorcycle helmets.

So you see this picture and you think, “Alright, most of the movie’ll be like this.” But it won’t.

So, after reviewing four other films, we finally get to this Captain America. Thanks to its director’s reputation among internet-savvy Bad Movie aficionados, this movie arguably “enjoys” the highest profile of any pre-2011 Captain America production. That’s unfortunate because it’s a terribly flawed film that nevertheless remains faithful to its source material in ways no superhero movie would even try match until the turn of the millennium.

We’re really spoiled in this post-X-Men/post-Spider-Man era. These days, budgets are high, actors are enthusiastic, and corporate shills are rubbing their hands together in barely-sublimated glee as each new superhero movie edges toward opening weekend. Back in the late-80s, the opposite was true. Batman might’ve hit big after a year of full-tilt marketing but, previous to that, the last big budget superhero production in America’s conscious memory was…Superman IV…a cataclysmic failure that undid pretty much all its 1979 prequel’s hard work and turned the entire genre’s Campiness Clock back to 1968. Continue reading



Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
A portrait in the park? $10 The look on your face when Captain America rescues your purse? Priceless.

A portrait in the park? $10 The look on your face when Captain America rescues your purse? Priceless.

So Captain America II (no subtitle in the opening credits) opens with a standard TV credit sequence: a slide show of the main cast, punctuated by a shot from later of Cap popping a wheelie on his rocket bike. Once the four leads are given their due the rest of the credits play out atop…aww crap! It’s the same driving footage that opened the first film! NoooOOOOOOO! Already I’m having flashbacks! Somebody make it stop!

Once the deja vu subsides we catch up to Steve Rogers (still Reb Brown) drawing portraits in an L.A. park as black men in short shorts roller skate through the background carrying ghetto blasters. Steve’s current client is an old woman, Mrs. Shaw (Susan French) who tells him about how the local muggers are making trouble for the local pensioners every time they cash their checks…because this is still the 70s, when (for all their Evil) corporations still paid pensioners on an actually-regular basis. Steve tells her to go cash her check and, when the thugs descend, Captain America is there to lay a re-introductory action sequence down on their candied asses. (So much for that secret identity, huh?) Continue reading



Captain America (1979)
Yeah, that's right! Hide your face in shame!

Yeah, that's right! Hide your face in shame!

Time for me to come clean and admit I never really liked Captain America. I don’t hate him, no matter how many times I joke about him being a fascist propaganda tool…or a rampaging national id who only exists to spout jingoistic platitudes and win Marvel some gratuitous Patriot Points. Beneath all that I really do understand his appeal.

But come on. Really, what’s so special about Steve Rogers? Line him up with all the other great heroes of the early 40s and compare. Doc Savage is a memory. The Shadow‘s a hallow catch phrase. The Phantom had a movie, but that starred Billy Zane and took fifty years to make. Yet here’s this blond hunk of apple pie, no matter how long you leave him frozen in ice he’ll always pop right off the operating table, ready to kick ass and take names… in America! Or anywhere else S.H.E.I.L.D. needs him.

Ah, but once…back in the Golden Age of Superhero Movies…Marvel tried to update good ol’ Steve for the Masses. Make him hip and relevant for a broader, TV audience that had ignored comic books entirely until Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk smashed their way onto CBS in 1975 and ’77, respectively. Heck, even though it’s 2011, I’m still technically this TV movie’s target audience, so why not, eh? Continue reading



Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)
"Alright, I'll give. Just don't review that Albert Pyun film. That's all I ask."

"Alright, I'll give. Just don't review that Albert Pyun film. That's all I ask."

Even the simplest of superhero sequels can be its own kind of hell. Sagas about superhero teams are even easier to screw up. At worst, they end up looking like an amateur plate-spinning performance at some lame high school talent show. Ultimate Avengers 2 isn’t quite that bad…but it’s verging on territory the Fantastic Four films would explore at length to their (and our) eternal detriment. For thirty minutes Ultimate Avengers 2 held me. Then it all fell apart in the act of wrapping itself up. There’s some irony in there somewhere.

Animated direct-to-DVD superhero movies have this bad habit of taking on more water than they can reasonably carry through their truncated running time. It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: when you have seven characters with seven back stories, seven arcs with seven conclusions, and only a hundred and nine minutes to run them all…you get a disappointing sequel. Continue reading



Ultimate Avengers (2006)
Yeah, guy wearing a flag into battle. That's not an easy target.

Yeah, guy wearing a flag into battle. That's not an easy target.

Best to begin this with what Ultimate Avengers is not. It’s not the movie I’d hoped it would be. What is these days, right? It’s not a shot-by-shot recreation of the similarly named, and much more thematically complicated Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch comic book miniseries upon which it is based. It’s not necessarily a major milestone in American animation. (No Fritz the Cat’s here, folks, keep walking.) It is not Marvel’s answer to Paul Dini’s spectacular Justice League series, which did more with more characters, smaller budgets, and the Ever Present Eye of Cartoon Network’s Standards and Practices.

Ultimate Avengers is not a great movie at all…and it shakes and shutters on the cusp of being good. By any objective or technical measure it’s not really that, either. The reasons why become quickly apparent. But first: plot synopsis.

Ultimate Avengers opens (like so much else in the Marvel Universe) during the winningest days of World War II. Hitler is dead, his armies in retreat, Germany safely carpet-bombed back to the Middle Ages. “But what,” asks the radio announcer, “are these rumors of a secret Nazi super weapon aimed at Washington? Categorically false, says the War [nee, Defense] Department. And we believe them!” {More}